The rules and definitions of prudence can rarely be exact; never universal. I do not deny, that, in small, truckling states, a timely compromise with power has often been the means, and the only means, of drawling out their puny existence: but a great state is too much envied, too much dreaded, to find safety in humiliation. To be secure, it must be respected. Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to be begged. They must be commanded: and they who supplicate for mercy from others, can never hope for justice through themselves. What justice they are to obtain, as the alms of an enemy, depends upon his character; and that they ought well to know before they implicitly confide.
Such is the effect of the perversion of history, by those, who, for the same nefarious purposes, have perverted every other part of learning. But those who will stand upon that elevation of reason, which places centuries under our eye, and brings things to the true point of comparison, which obscures little names, and effaces the colours of little parties, and to which nothing can ascend but the spirit and moral quality of human actions, will say to the teachers of the Palais Royal,—the cardinal of Lorraine was the murderer of the sixteenth century, you have the glory of being the murderers in the eighteenth; and this is the only difference between you. But history, in the nineteenth century, better understood, and better employed, will, I trust, teach a civilized posterity to abhor the misdeeds of both these barbarous ages. It will teach future priests and magistrates not to retaliate upon the speculative and inactive atheists of future times, the enormities committed by the present practical zealots and furious fanatics of that wretched error, which, in its quiescent state, is more than punished, whenever it is embraced. It will teach posterity not to make war upon either religion or philosophy, for the abuse which the hypocrites of both have made of the two most valuable blessings conferred upon us by the bounty of the universal Patron, who in all things eminently favours and protects the race of man.
Place, for instance, before your eyes, such a man as Montesquieu. Think of a genius not born in every country, or every time; a man gifted by nature with a penetrating, aquiline eye; with a judgment prepared with the most extensive erudition; with an herculean robustness of mind, and nerves not to be broken with labour; a man who could spend twenty years in one pursuit. Think of a man, like the universal patriarch in Milton (who had drawn up before him in his prophetic vision the whole series of the generations which were to issue from his loins), a man capable of placing in review, after having brought together from the east, the west, the north, and the south, from the coarseness of the rudest barbarism to the most refined and subtle civilization, all the schemes of government which had ever prevailed amongst mankind, weighing, measuring, collating, and comparing them all, joining fact with theory, and calling into council, upon all this infinite assemblage of things, all the speculations which have fatigued the understandings of profound reasoners in all times! Let us then consider, that all these were but so many preparatory steps to qualify a man, and such a man, tinctured with no national prejudice, with no domestic affection, to admire, and to hold out to the admiration of mankind, the constitution of England! And shall we Englishmen revoke to such a suit? Shall we, when so much more than he has produced remains still to be understood and admired, instead of keeping ourselves in the schools of real science, choose for our teachers men incapable of being taught, whose only claim to know is, that they have never doubted; from whom we can learn nothing but their own indocility; who would teach us to scorn what in the silence of our hearts we ought to adore?
ARTICLES, AND SCRIPTURE.
If you will have religion publicly practised and publicly taught, you must have a power to say what that religion will be, which you will protect and encourage; and to distinguish it by such marks and characteristics, as you in your wisdom shall think fit. As I said before, your determination may be unwise in this as in other matters; but it cannot be unjust, hard, or oppressive, or contrary to the liberty of any man, or in the least degree exceeding your province.
It is therefore as a grievance fairly none at all, nothing but what is essential not only to the order, but to the liberty of the whole community. The petitioners are so sensible of the force of these arguments, that they do admit of one subscription, that is, to the Scripture. I shall not consider how forcibly this argument militates with their whole principle against subscription as an usurpation on the rights of Providence: I content myself with submitting to the consideration of the house, that, if that rule were once established, it must have some authority to enforce the obedience; because you well know, a law without a sanction will be ridiculous. Somebody must sit in judgment on his conformity; he must judge on the charge; if he judges, he must ordain execution. These things are necessary consequences one of the other; and then this judgment is an equal and a superior violation of private judgment; the right of private judgment is violated in a much greater degree than it can be by any previous subscription. You come round again to subscription, as the best and easiest method; men must judge of his doctrine, and judge definitively; so that either his test is nugatory, or men must first or last prescribe his public interpretation of it.
PROBLEM OF LEGISLATION.
It is one of the finest problems in legislation, and what has often engaged my thoughts whilst I followed that profession, "What the state ought to take upon itself to direct by the public wisdom, and what it ought to leave, with as little interference as possible, to individual discretion." Nothing, certainly, can be laid down on the subject that will not admit of exceptions, many permanent, some occasional. But the clearest line of distinction which I could draw, whilst I had my chalk to draw any line, was this; that the state ought to confine itself to what regards the state, or the creatures of the state;—namely, the exterior establishment of its religion; its magistracy; its revenue; its military force by sea and land; the corporations that owe their existence to its fiat; in a word, to everything that is TRULY AND PROPERLY public; to the public peace, to the public safety, to the public order, to the public prosperity. In its preventive police it ought to be sparing of its efforts, and to employ means, rather few, unfrequent, and strong, than many and frequent, and, of course, as they multiply their puny politic race, and dwindle, small and feeble. Statesmen who know themselves will, with the dignity which belongs to wisdom, proceed only in this the superior orb and first mover of their duty steadily, vigilantly, severely, courageously: whatever remains will, in a manner, provide for itself. But as they descend from the state to a province, from a province to a parish, and from a parish to a private house, they go on accelerated in their fall. They CANNOT do the lower duty; and, in proportion as they try it, they will certainly fail in the higher. They ought to know the different departments of things; what belongs to laws, and what manners alone can regulate. To these, great politicians may give a leaning, but they cannot give a law.
ORDER, LABOUR, AND PROPERTY.
To tell the people that they are relieved by the dilapidation of their public estate, is a cruel and insolent imposition. Statesmen, before they valued themselves on the relief given to the people by the destruction of their revenue, ought first to have carefully attended to the solution of this problem:—Whether it be more advantageous to the people to pay considerably, and to gain in proportion; or to gain little or nothing, and to be disburthened of all contribution? My mind is made up to decide in favour of the first proposition. Experience is with me, and, I believe, the best opinions also. To keep a balance between the power of acquisition on the part of the subject, and the demands he is to answer on the part of the state, is the fundamental part of the skill of a true politician. The means of acquisition are prior in time and in arrangement. Good order is the foundation of all good things. To be enabled to acquire, the people, without being servile, must be tractable and obedient. The magistrate must have his reverence, the laws their authority. The body of the people must not find the principles of natural subordination by art rooted out of their minds. They must respect that property of which they cannot partake. They must labour to obtain what by labour can be obtained; and when they find, as they commonly do, the success disproportioned to the endeavour, they must be taught their consolation in the final proportions of eternal justice. Of this consolation whoever deprives them, deadens their industry, and strikes at the root of all acquisition as of all conservation. He that does this is the cruel oppressor, the merciless enemy of the poor and wretched; at the same time that by his wicked speculations he exposes the fruits of successful industry, and the accumulations of fortune, to the plunder of the negligent, the disappointed, and the unprosperous.
This strange law is not made for a trivial object, not for a single port, or for a single fortress, but for a great kingdom; for the religion, the morals, the laws, the liberties, the lives and fortunes of millions of human creatures, who without their consent, or that of their lawful government, are, by an arbitrary act of this regicide and homicide government, which they call a law, incorporated into their tyranny.
In other words, their will is the law, not only at home, but as to the concerns of every nation. Who has made that law but the regicide republic itself, whose laws, like those of the Medes and Persians, they cannot alter or abrogate, or even so much as take into consideration? Without the least ceremony or compliment, they have sent out of the world whole sets of laws and lawgivers. They have swept away the very constitutions under which the legislators acted, and the laws were made. Even the fundamental sacred rights of man they have not scrupled to profane. They have set this holy code at naught with ignominy and scorn. Thus they treat all their domestic laws and constitutions, and even what they had considered as a law of nature; but whatever they have put their seal on for the purposes of their ambition, and the ruin of their neighbours, this alone is invulnerable, impassible, immortal. Assuming to be masters of everything human and divine, here, and here alone, it seems they are limited, "cooped and cabined in;" and this omnipotent legislature finds itself wholly without the power of exercising its favourite attribute, the love of peace. In other words, they are powerful to usurp, impotent to restore; and equally by their power and their impotence they aggrandize themselves, and weaken and impoverish you and all other nations.
GOVERNMENT NOT TO BE RASHLY CENSURED.
The PURPOSE for which the abuses of government are brought into view, forms a very material consideration in the mode of treating them. The complaints of a friend are things very different from the invectives of an enemy. The charge of abuses on the late monarchy of France was not intended to lead to its reformation, but to justify its destruction. They, who have raked into all history for the faults of kings, and who have aggravated every fault they have found, have acted consistently; because they acted as enemies. No man can be a friend to a tempered monarchy who bears a decided hatred to monarchy itself. He, who at the present time, is favourable, or even fair, to that system, must act towards it as towards a friend with frailties, who is under the prosecution of implacable foes. I think it a duty, in that case, not to inflame the public mind against the obnoxious person by any exaggeration of his faults. It is our duty rather to palliate his errors and defects, or to cast them into the shade, and industriously to bring forward any good qualities that he may happen to possess. But when the man is to be amended, and by amendment to be preserved, then the line of duty takes another direction. When his safety is effectually provided for, it then becomes the office of a friend to urge his faults and vices with all the energy of enlightened affection, to paint them in their most vivid colours, and to bring the moral patient to a better habit. Thus I think with regard to individuals; thus I think with regard to ancient and respected governments and orders of men. A spirit of reformation is never more consistent with itself than when it refuses to be rendered the means of destruction.
Etiquette, if I understand rightly the term, which in any extent is of modern usage, had its original application to those ceremonial and formal observances practised at courts, which had been established by long usage, in order to preserve the sovereign power from the rude intrusion of licentious familiarity, as well as to preserve majesty itself from a disposition to consult its ease at the expense of its dignity. The term came afterwards to have a greater latitude, and to be employed to signify certain formal methods used in the transactions between sovereign states.
In the more limited, as well as in the larger sense of the term, without knowing what the etiquette is, it is impossible to determine whether it is a vain and captious punctilio, or a form necessary to preserve decorum in character and order in business. I readily admit, that nothing tends to facilitate the issue of all public transactions more than a mutual disposition in the parties treating to waive all ceremony. But the use of this temporary suspension of the recognised modes of respect consists in its being mutual, and in the spirit of conciliation, in which all ceremony is laid aside. On the contrary, when one of the parties to a treaty intrenches himself up to the chin in these ceremonies, and will not on his side abate a single punctilio, and that all the concessions are upon one side only, the party so conceding does by this act place himself in a relation of inferiority, and thereby fundamentally subverts that equality which is of the very essence of all treaty.
Old establishments are tried by their effects. If the people are happy, united, wealthy, and powerful, we presume the rest. We conclude that to be good, from whence good is derived. In old establishments, various correctives have been found for their aberrations from theory. Indeed, they are the results of various necessities and expediencies. They are not often constructed after any theory; theories are rather drawn from them. In them we often see the end best obtained, where the means seem not perfectly reconcilable to what we may fancy was the original scheme. The means taught by experience may be better suited to political ends than those contrived in the original project. They again re-act upon the primitive constitution; and sometimes improve the design itself, from which they seem to have departed. I think all this might be curiously exemplified in the British constitution. At worst, the errors and deviations of every kind in reckoning are found and computed, and the ship proceeds in her course. This is the case of old establishments; but in a new and merely theoretic system, it is expected that every contrivance shall appear, on the face of it, to answer its ends; especially where the projectors are no way embarrassed with an endeavour to accommodate the new building to an old one, either in the walls or on the foundations.
SENTIMENT AND POLICY.
Never was there a jar or discord between genuine sentiment and sound policy. Never, no never, did Nature say one thing and Wisdom say another. Nor are sentiments of elevation in themselves turgid and unnatural. Nature is never more truly herself than in her grandest form. The Apollo of Belvedere (if the universal robber has yet left him at Belvedere) is as much in nature as any figure from the pencil of Rembrandt, or any clown in the rustic revels of Teniers. Indeed, it is when a great nation is in great difficulties that minds must exalt themselves to the occasion, or all is lost. Strong passion, under the direction of a feeble reason, feeds a low fever, which serves only to destroy the body that entertains it. But vehement passion does not always indicate an infirm judgment. It often accompanies, and actuates, and is even auxiliary to a powerful understanding; and when they both conspire and act harmoniously, their force is great to destroy disorder within, and to repel injury from abroad. If ever there was a time that calls on us for no vulgar conception of things, and for exertions in no vulgar strain, it is the awful hour that Providence has now appointed to this nation. Every little measure is a great error; and every great error will bring on no small ruin. Nothing can be directed above the mark that we must aim at: everything below it is absolutely thrown away.
I have little to recommend my opinions but long observation and much impartiality. They come from one who has been no tool of power, no flatterer of greatness; and who in his last acts does not wish to belie the tenor of his life. They come from one, almost the whole of whose public exertions has been a struggle for the liberty of others; from one in whose breast no anger durable or vehement has ever been kindled, but by what he considered as tyranny; and who snatches from his share in the endeavours which are used by good men to discredit opulent oppression, the hours he has employed on your affairs; and who in so doing persuades himself he has not departed from his usual office: they come from one who desires honours, distinctions, and emoluments, but little, and who expects them not at all; who has no contempt for fame, and no fear of obloquy; who shuns contention, though he will hazard an opinion; who would preserve consistency by varying his means to secure the unity of his end; and, when the equipoise of the vessel in which he sails may be endangered by overloading it upon one side, is desirous of carrying the small weight of his reasons to that which may preserve its equipoise.
NECESSITY, A RELATIVE TERM.
The only excuse to be made for all our mendicant diplomacy is the same as in the case of all other mendicancy;—namely, that it has been founded on absolute necessity. This deserves consideration. Necessity, as it has no law, so it has no shame: but moral necessity is not like metaphysical, or even physical. In that category it is a word of loose signification, and conveys different ideas to different minds. To the low-minded, the slightest necessity becomes an invincible necessity. "The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way, and I shall be devoured in the streets." But when the necessity pleaded is not in the nature of things, but in the vices of him who alleges it, the whining tones of commonplace beggarly rhetoric produce nothing but indignation; because they indicate a desire of keeping up a dishonourable existence, without utility to others, and without dignity to itself; because they aim at obtaining the dues of labour without industry; and by frauds would draw from the compassion of others what men ought to owe to their own spirit and their own exertions.
KING JOHN AND THE POPE.
He began with exacting an oath from the king, by which, without showing the extent of his design, he engaged him to everything he could ask. John swore to submit to the legate in all things relating to his excommunication. And first he was obliged to accept Langton as archbishop; then to restore the monks of Canterbury, and other deprived ecclesiastics, and to make them a full indemnification for all their losses. And now, by these concessions, all things seemed to be perfectly settled. The cause of the quarrel was entirely removed. But when the king expected for so perfect a submission a full absolution, the legate began a laboured harangue on his rebellion, his tyranny, and the innumerable sins he had committed; and in conclusion declared, that there was no way left to appease God and the Church but to resign his crown to the Holy See, from whose hands he should receive it purified from all pollutions, and hold it for the future by homage, and an annual tribute. John was struck motionless at a demand so extravagant and unexpected. He knew not on which side to turn. If he cast his eyes toward the coast of France, he there saw his enemy Philip, who considered him as a criminal as well as an enemy, and who aimed not only at his crown but his life, at the head of an innumerable multitude of fierce people, ready to rush in upon him. If he looked at his own army, he saw nothing there but coldness, disaffection, uncertainty, distrust, and a strength, in which he knew not whether he ought most to confide or fear. On the other hand, the papal thunders, from the wounds of which he was still sore, were leveled full at his head. He could not look steadily at these complicated difficulties; and truly it is hard to say what choice he had, if any choice were left to kings in what concerns the independence of their crown. Surrounded, therefore, with these difficulties; and that all his late humiliations might not be rendered as ineffectual as they were ignominious, he took the last step; and, in the presence of a numerous assembly of his peers and prelates, who turned their eyes from this mortifying sight, formally resigned his crown to the pope's legate; to whom at the same time he did homage, and paid the first fruits of his tribute. Nothing could be added to the humiliation of the king upon this occasion, but the insolence of the legate, who spurned the treasure with his foot, and let the crown remain a long time on the ground before he restored it to the degraded owner.
In this proceeding the motives of the king may be easily discovered; but how the barons of the kingdom, who were deeply concerned, suffered, without any protestation, the independency of the crown to be thus forfeited, is mentioned by no historian of that time. In civil tumults it is astonishing how little regard is paid by all parties to the honour or safety of their country. The king's friends were probably induced to acquiesce by the same motives that had influenced the king. His enemies, who were the most numerous, perhaps saw his abasement with pleasure, as they knew this action might be one day employed against him with effect. To the bigots it was enough, that it aggrandized the pope. It is, perhaps, worthy of observation, that the conduct of Pandulph towards King John bore a very great affinity to that of the Roman consuls to the people of Carthage in the last Punic war; drawing them from concession to concession, and carefully concealing their design, until they made it impossible for the Carthaginians to resist. Such a strong resemblance did the same ambition produce in such distant times; and it is far from the sole instance, in which we may trace a similarity between the spirit and conduct of the former and latter Rome in their common design on the liberties of mankind.
CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCE.
The balance between consumption and production makes price. The market settles, and alone can settle, that price. Market is the meeting and conference of the CONSUMER and PRODUCER, when they mutually discover each other's wants. Nobody, I believe, has observed with any reflection what market is, without being astonished at the truth, the correctness, the celerity, the general equity, with which the balance of wants is settled. They, who wish the destruction of that balance, and would fain by arbitrary regulation decree, that defective production should not be compensated by increased price, directly lay their AXE to the root of production itself.
"PRIESTS OF THE RIGHTS OF MAN."
His Grace, like an able orator, as he is, begins with giving me a great deal of praise for talents which I do not possess. He does this to entitle himself, on the credit of this gratuitous kindness, to exaggerate my abuse of the parts which his bounty, and not that of nature, has bestowed upon me. In this, too, he has condescended to copy Mr. Erskine. These priests (I hope they will excuse me; I mean priests of the rights of man) begin by crowning me with their flowers and their fillets, and bedewing me with their odours, as a preface to the knocking me on the head with their consecrated axes. I have injured, say they, the constitution; and I have abandoned the Whig party and the Whig principles that I professed. I do not mean, my dear sir, to defend myself against his Grace. I have not much interest in what the world shall think or say of me; as little has the world an interest in what I shall think or say of any one in it; and I wish that his Grace had suffered an unhappy man to enjoy, in his retreat, the melancholy privileges of obscurity and sorrow. At any rate, I have spoken, and I have written, on the subject. If I have written or spoken so poorly as to be quite forgot, a fresh apology will not make a more lasting impression. "I must let the tree lie as it falls." Perhaps I must take some shame to myself. I confess that I have acted on my own principles of government, and not on those of his Grace, which are, I dare say, profound and wise; but which I do not pretend to understand. As to the party to which he alludes, and which has long taken its leave of me, I believe the principles of the book which he condemns are very conformable to the opinions of many of the most considerable and most grave in that description of politicians. A few indeed, who, I admit, are equally respectable in all points, differ from me, and talk his Grace's language. I am too feeble to contend with them. They have the field to themselves. There are others, very young and very ingenious persons, who form, probably, the largest part of what his Grace, I believe, is pleased to consider as that party. Some of them were not born into the world, and all of them were children, when I entered into that connection. I give due credit to the censorial brow, to the broad phylacteries, and to the imposing gravity, of those magisterial rabbins and doctors in the cabala of political science. I admit that "wisdom is as the gray hair to man, and that learning is like honourable old age." But, at a time when liberty is a good deal talked of, perhaps I might be excused, if I caught something of the general indocility. It might not be surprising, if I lengthened my chain a link or two, and in an age of relaxed discipline, gave a trifling indulgence to my own notions. If that could be allowed, perhaps I might sometimes (by accident, and without an unpardonable crime) trust as much to my own very careful, and very laborious, though, perhaps, somewhat purblind disquisitions, as to their soaring, intuitive, eagle-eyed authority. But the modern liberty is a precious thing. It must not be profaned by too vulgar an use. It belongs only to the chosen few, who are born to the hereditary representation of the whole democracy, and who leave nothing at all, no, not the offal, to us poor outcasts of the plebeian race.
Amongst those gentlemen who came to authority, as soon, or sooner than they came of age, I do not mean to include his Grace. With all those native titles to empire over our minds which distinguish the others, he has a large share of experience. He certainly ought to understand the British constitution better than I do. He has studied it in the fundamental part. For one election I have seen, he has been concerned in twenty. Nobody is less of a visionary theorist; nobody has drawn his speculations more from practice. No peer has condescended to superintend with more vigilance the declining franchises of the poor commons. "With thrice great Hermes he has outwatched the bear." Often have his candles been burned to the snuff, and glimmered and stunk in the sockets, whilst he grew pale at his constitutional studies; long sleepless nights has he wasted; long, laborious, shiftless journeys has he made, and great sums has he expended in order to secure the purity, the independence, and the sobriety of elections, and to give a check, if possible, to the ruinous charges that go nearly to the destruction of the right of election itself. Amidst these his labours, his Grace will be pleased to forgive me, if my zeal, less enlightened to be sure than his by midnight lamps and studies, has presumed to talk too favourably of this constitution, and even to say something sounding like approbation of that body which has the honour to reckon his Grace at the head of it. Those, who dislike this partiality, or, if his Grace pleases, this flattery of mine, have a comfort at hand. I may be refuted and brought to shame by the most convincing of all refutations—a practical refutation. Every individual peer for himself may show that I was ridiculously wrong: the whole body of those noble persons may refute me for the whole corps. If they please, they are more powerful advocates against themselves, than a thousand scribblers like me can be in their favour. If I were even possessed of those powers which his Grace, in order to heighten my offence, is pleased to attribute to me, there would be little difference. The eloquence of Mr. Erskine might save Mr.— from the gallows, but no eloquence could save Mr. Jackson from the effects of his own potion.
SPECULATION AND HISTORY.
I shall not live to behold the unravelling of the intricate plot which saddens and perplexes the awful drama of Providence now acting on the moral theatre of the world. Whether for thought or for action, I am at the end of my career. You are in the middle of yours. In what part of its orbit the nation, with which we are carried along, moves at this instant, it is not easy to conjecture. It may, perhaps, be far advanced in its aphelion.—But when to return?
Not to lose ourselves in the infinite void of the conjectural world, our business is with what is likely to be affected, for the better or the worse, by the wisdom or weakness of our plans. In all speculations upon men and human affairs, it is of no small moment to distinguish things of accident from permanent causes, and from effects that cannot be altered. It is not every irregularity in our movement that is a total deviation from our course. I am not quite of the mind of those speculators who seem assured that, necessarily, and by the constitution of things, all states have the same periods of infancy, manhood, and decrepitude that are found in the individuals who compose them. Parallels of this sort rather furnish similitudes to illustrate or to adorn, than supply analogies from whence to reason. The objects which are attempted to be forced into an analogy are not found in the same classes of existence. Individuals are physical beings subject to laws universal and invariable. The immediate cause acting in these laws may be obscure; the general results are subjects of certain calculation. But commonwealths are not physical but moral essences. They are artificial combinations, and, in their proximate efficient cause, the arbitrary productions of the human mind. We are not yet acquainted with the laws which necessarily influence the stability of that kind of work made by that kind of agent. There is not in the physical order (with which they do not appear to hold any assignable connection) a distinct cause by which any of those fabrics must necessarily grow, flourish, or decay; nor, in my opinion, does the moral world produce anything more determinate on that subject than what may serve as an amusement (liberal, indeed, and ingenious, but still only an amusement) for speculative men. I doubt whether the history of mankind is yet complete enough, if ever it can be so, to furnish grounds for a sure theory on the internal causes which necessarily affect the fortune of a state. I am far from denying the operation of such causes: but they are infinitely uncertain and much more obscure, and much more difficult to trace, than the foreign causes that tend to raise, to depress, and sometimes to overwhelm, a community. It is often impossible in these political inquiries to find any proportion between the apparent force of any moral causes we may assign and their known operation. We are therefore obliged to deliver up that operation to mere chance, or, more piously (perhaps, more rationally), to the occasional interposition and irresistible hand of the Great Disposer. We have seen states of considerable duration, which for ages have remained nearly as they have begun, and could hardly be said to ebb or flow. Some appear to have spent their vigour at their commencement. Some have blazed out in their glory a little before their extinction. The meridian of some has been the most splendid. Others, and they the greatest number, have fluctuated, and experienced at different periods of their existence a great variety of fortune. At the very moment when some of them seemed plunged in unfathomable abysses of disgrace and disaster, they have suddenly emerged. They have begun a new course and opened a new reckoning; and, even in the depths of their calamity, and on the very ruins of their country, have laid the foundations of a towering and durable greatness. All this has happened without any apparent previous change in the general circumstances which had brought on their distress. The death of a man at a critical juncture, his disgust, his retreat, his disgrace, have brought innumerable calamities on a whole nation. A common soldier, a child, a girl at the door of an inn, have changed the face of fortune, and almost of nature.
Such, and often influenced by such causes, has commonly been the fate of monarchies of long duration. They have their ebbs and their flows. This has been eminently the fate of the monarchy of France. There have been times in which no power has ever been brought so low. Few have ever flourished in greater glory. By turns elevated and depressed, that power had been, on the whole, rather on the increase; and it continued not only powerful but formidable to the hour of the total ruin of the monarchy. This fall of the monarchy was far from being preceded by any exterior symptoms of decline. The interior were not visible to every eye; and a thousand accidents might have prevented the operation of what the most clear-sighted were not able to discern, nor the most provident to divine. A very little time before its dreadful catastrophe there was a kind of exterior splendour in the situation of the Crown, which usually adds to government strength and authority at home. The Crown seemed then to have obtained some of the most splendid objects of state ambition. None of the continental powers of Europe were the enemies of France. They were all either tacitly disposed to her, or publicly connected with her; and in those who kept the most aloof there was little appearance of jealousy; of animosity there was no appearance at all. The British nation, her great preponderating rival; she had humbled; to all appearance she had weakened; certainly had endangered, by cutting off a very large, and by far the most growing part of her empire. In that its acme of human prosperity and greatness, in the high and palmy state of the monarchy of France, it fell to the ground without a struggle. It fell without any of those vices in the monarch which have sometimes been the causes of the fall of kingdoms, but which existed, without any visible effect on the state, in the highest degree in many other princes; and, far from destroying their power, had only left some slight stains on their character. The financial difficulties were only pretexts and instruments of those who accomplished the ruin of that monarchy. They were not the causes of it.
Deprived of the old government, deprived in a manner of all government, France, fallen as a monarchy, to common speculators might have appeared more likely to be an object of pity or insult, according to the disposition of the circumjacent powers, than to be the scourge and terror of them all: but out of the tomb of the murdered monarchy in France has arisen a vast, tremendous unformed spectre, in a far more terrific guise than any which ever yet have overpowered the imagination and subdued the fortitude of man. Going straight forward to its end, unappalled by peril, unchecked by remorse, despising all common maxims and all common means, that hideous phantom overpowered those who could not believe it was possible she could at all exist, except on the principles which habit rather than nature had persuaded them were necessary to their own particular welfare, and to their own ordinary modes of action. But the constitution of any political being, as well as that of any physical being, ought to be known, before one can venture to say what is fit for its conservation, or what is the proper means of its power. The poison of other states is the food of the new republic. That bankruptcy, the very apprehension of which is one of the causes assigned for the fall of the monarchy, was the capital on which she opened her traffic with the world.
LABOUR AND WAGES.
In the case of the farmer and the labourer, their interests are always the same, and it is absolutely impossible that their free contracts can be onerous to either party. It is the interest of the farmer, that his work should be done with effect and celerity: and that cannot be, unless the labourer is well fed, and otherwise found with such necessaries of animal life, according to his habitudes, as may keep the body in full force, and the mind gay and cheerful. For of all the instruments of his trade, the labour of man (what the ancient writers have called the instrumentum vocale) is that on which he is most to rely for the repayment of his capital. The other two, the semivocale in the ancient classification, that is, the working stock of cattle, and the instrumentum mutum, such as carts, ploughs, spades, and so forth, though not all inconsiderable in themselves, are very much inferior in utility or in expense; or, without a given portion of the first, are nothing at all. For, in all things whatever, the mind is the most valuable and the most important; and in this scale the whole of agriculture is in a natural and just order; the beast is as an informing principle to the plough and cart; the labourer is as reason to the beast; and the farmer is as a thinking and presiding principle to the labourer. An attempt to break this chain of subordination in any part is equally absurd; but the absurdity is the most mischievous in practical operation, where it is the most easy, that is, where it is the most subject to an erroneous judgment.
It is plainly more the farmer's interest that his men should thrive, than that his horses should be well fed, sleek, plump, and fit for use, or than that his waggons and ploughs should be strong, in good repair, and fit for service.
On the other hand, if the farmer cease to profit of the labourer, and that his capital is not continually manured and fructified, it is impossible that he should continue that abundant nutriment, and clothing, and lodging, proper for the protection of the instruments he employs.
It is therefore the first and fundamental interest of the labourer, that the farmer should have a full incoming profit on the product of his labour. The proposition is self-evident, and nothing but the malignity, perverseness, and ill-governed passions of mankind, and particularly the envy they bear to each other's prosperity, could prevent their seeing and acknowledging it, with thankfulness to the benign and wise Disposer of all things, who obliges men, whether they will or not, in pursuing their own selfish interests, to connect the general good with their own individual success.
But who are to judge what that profit and advantage ought to be? Certainly no authority on earth. It is a matter of convention dictated by the reciprocal conveniences of the parties, and indeed by their reciprocal necessities.—But, if the farmer is excessively avaricious?—why so much the better—the more he desires to increase his gains, the more interested is he in the good condition of those upon whose labour his gains must principally depend.
I shall be told by the zealots of the sect of regulation, that this may be true, and may be safely committed to the convention of the farmer and the labourer, when the latter is in the prime of his youth, and at the time of his health and vigour, and in ordinary times of abundance. But in calamitous seasons, under accidental illness, in declining life, and with the pressure of a numerous offspring, the future nourishers of the community, but the present drains and blood-suckers of those who produce them, what is to be done? When a man cannot live and maintain his family by the natural hire of his labour, ought it not to be raised by authority?
On this head I must be allowed to submit, what my opinions have ever been; and somewhat at large. And, first, I premise that labour is, as I have already intimated, a commodity, and, as such, an article of trade. If I am right in this notion, then labour must be subject to all the laws and principles of trade, and not to regulation foreign to them, and that may be totally inconsistent with those principles and those laws. When any commodity is carried to market, it is not the necessity of the vender, but the necessity of the purchaser, that raises the price. The extreme want of the seller has rather (by the nature of things with which we shall in vain contend) the direct contrary operation. If the goods at market are beyond the demand, they fall in their value; if below it, they rise. The impossibility of the subsistence of a man, who carries his labour to a market, is totally beside the question in his way of viewing it. The only question is, what is it worth to the buyer?
But if the authority comes in and forces the buyer to a price, who is this in the case (say) of a farmer who buys the labour of ten or twelve labouring men, and three or four handicrafts, what is it, but to make an arbitrary division of his property among them?
The whole of his gains, I say it with the most certain conviction, never do amount anything like in value to what he pays to his labourers and artificers, so that a very small advance upon what ONE man pays to MANY may absorb the whole of what he possesses, and amount to an actual partition of all his substance among them. A perfect equality will indeed be produced;—that is to say, equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary, and on the part of the petitioners, a woeful, helpless, and desperate disappointment. Such is the event of all compulsory equalizations. They pull down what is above. They never raise what is below: and they depress high and low together beneath the level of what was originally the lowest.
If a commodity is raised by authority above what it will yield with a profit to the buyer, that commodity will be the less dealt in. If a second blundering interposition be used to correct the blunder of the first, and an attempt is made to force the purchase of the commodity (of labour for instance), the one of these two things must happen, either that the forced buyer is ruined, or the price of the product of the labour, in that proportion, is raised. Then the wheel turns round, and the evil complained of falls with aggravated weight on the complainant. The price of corn, which is the result of the expense of all the operations of husbandry taken together, and for some time continued, will rise on the labourer, considered as a consumer. The very best will be, that he remains where he was. But if the price of the corn should not compensate the price of labour, what is far more to be feared, the most serious evil, the very destruction of agriculture itself, is to be apprehended.
Nothing is such an enemy to accuracy of judgment as a coarse discrimination: a want of such classification and distribution as the subject admits of. Increase the rate of wages to the labourer, say the regulators—as if labour was but one thing, and of one value. But this very broad, generic term, LABOUR, admits, at least, of two or three specific descriptions: and these will suffice, at least, to let gentlemen discern a little the necessity of proceeding with caution in their coercive guidance of those whose existence depends upon the observance of still nicer distinctions and subdivisions than commonly they resort to in forming their judgments on this very enlarged part of economy.
The labourers in husbandry may be divided: 1st, into those who are able to perform the full work of a man; that is, what can be done by a person from twenty-one years of age to fifty. I know no husbandry-work (mowing hardly excepted) that is not equally within the power of all persons within those ages, the more advanced fully compensating by knack and habit what they lose in activity. Unquestionably, there is a good deal of difference between the value of one man's labour and that of another, from strength, dexterity, and honest application. But I am quite sure, from my best observation, that any given five men will, in their total, afford a proportion of labour equal to any other five within the periods of life I have stated; that is, that among such five men there will be one possessing all the qualifications of a good workman, one bad, and the other three middling, and approximating to the first and the last. So that in so small a platoon as that of even five, you will find the full complement of all that five men CAN earn. Taking five and five throughout the kingdom, they are equal: therefore, an error with regard to the equalization of their wages by those who employ five, as farmers do at the very least, cannot be considerable. 2ndly. Those who are able to work, but not the complete task of a day-labourer. This class is infinitely diversified, but will aptly enough fall into principal divisions. MEN, from the decline, which after fifty becomes every year more sensible to the period of debility and decrepitude, and the maladies that precede a final dissolution. WOMEN, whose employment on husbandry is but occasional, and who differ more in effective labour one from another, than men do, on account of gestation, nursing, and domestic management, over and above the difference they have in common with men in advancing, in stationary, and in declining life. CHILDREN, who proceed on the reverse order, growing from less to greater utility, but with a still greater disproportion of nutriment to labour than is found in the second of these subdivisions: as is visible to those who will give themselves the trouble of examining into the interior economy of a poor-house.
This inferior classification is introduced to show, that laws prescribing, or magistrates exercising, a very stiff and often inapplicable rule, or a blind and rash discretion, never can provide the just proportions between earning and salary on the one hand, and nutriment on the other: whereas interest, habit, and the tacit convention, that arise from a thousand nameless circumstances, produce a TACT that regulates without difficulty, what laws and magistrates cannot regulate at all. The first class of labour wants nothing to equalize it; it equalizes itself. The second and third are not capable of any equalization.
But what if the rate of hire to the labourer comes far short of his necessary subsistence, and the calamity of the time is so great as to threaten actual famine? Is the poor labourer to be abandoned to the flinty heart and griping hand of base self-interest, supported by the sword of law, especially when there is reason to suppose that the very avarice of farmers themselves has concurred with the errors of government to bring famine on the land?
A COMPLETE REVOLUTION.
Before this of France, the annals of all time have not furnished an instance of a COMPLETE revolution. That Revolution seems to have extended even to the constitution of the mind of man. It has this of wonderful in it, that it resembles what Lord Verulam says of the operations of nature. It was perfect, not only in its elements and principles, but in all its members and its organs from the very beginning. The moral scheme of France furnishes the only pattern ever known, which they who admire will INSTANTLY resemble. It is indeed an inexhaustible repertory of one kind of examples. In my wretched condition, though hardly to be classed with the living, I am not safe from them. They have tigers to fall upon animated strength. They have hyaenas to prey upon carcasses. The national menagerie is collected by the first physiologists of the time; and it is defective in no description of savage nature. They pursue even such as me, into the obscurest retreats, and haul them before their revolutionary tribunals. Neither sex, nor age,—nor the sanctuary of the tomb, is sacred to them. They have so determined a hatred to all privileged orders, that they deny even to the departed the sad immunities of the grave. They are not wholly without an object. Their turpitude purveys to their malice; and they unplumb the dead for bullets to assassinate the living. If all revolutionists were not proof against all caution, I should recommend it to their consideration, that no persons were ever known in history, either sacred or profane, to vex the sepulchre, and, by their sorceries, to call up the prophetic dead, with any other event, than the prediction of their own disastrous fate.—"Leave me, oh leave me to repose!"
BRITISH GOVERNMENT IN INDIA.
The British government in India being a subordinate and delegated power, it ought to be considered as a fundamental principle in such a system, that it is to be preserved in the strictest obedience to the government at home. Administration in India, at an immense distance from the seat of the supreme authority; intrusted with the most extensive powers; liable to the greatest temptations; possessing the amplest means of abuse; ruling over a people guarded by no distinct or well-ascertained privileges, whose language, manners, and radical prejudices render not only redress, but all complaint on their part, a matter of extreme difficulty; such an administration, it is evident, never can be made subservient to the interests of Great Britain, or even tolerable to the natives, but by the strictest rigour in exacting obedience to the commands of the authority lawfully set over it.
MONEY AND SCIENCE.
My exertions, whatever they have been, were such as no hopes of pecuniary reward could possibly excite; and no pecuniary compensation can possibly reward them. Between money and such services, if done by abler men than I am, there is no common principle of comparison: they are quantities incommensurable. Money is made for the comfort and convenience of animal life. It cannot be a reward for what mere animal life must indeed sustain, but never can inspire. With submission to his Grace, I have not had more than sufficient. As to any noble use, I trust I know how to employ, as well as he, a much greater fortune than he possesses. In a more confined application, I certainly stand in need of every kind of relief and easement much more than he does. When I say I have not received more than I deserve, is this the language I hold to majesty? No! Far, very far, from it! Before that presence, I claim no merit at all. Everything towards me is favour, and bounty. One style to a gracious benefactor; another to a proud and insulting foe.
His Grace is pleased to aggravate my guilt, by charging my acceptance of his majesty's grant as a departure from my ideas, and the spirit of my conduct with regard to economy. If it be, my ideas of economy were false and ill-founded. But they are the Duke of Bedford's ideas of economy I have contradicted, and not my own. If he means to allude to certain bills brought in by me on a message from the throne in 1782, I tell him, that there is nothing in my conduct that can contradict either the letter or the spirit of those acts. Does he mean the Pay-office Act? I take it for granted he does not. The act to which he alludes, is, I suppose, the Establishment Act. I greatly doubt whether his Grace has ever read the one or the other. The first of these systems cost me, with every assistance which my then situation gave me, pains incredible. I found an opinion common through all the offices, and general in the public at large, that it would prove impossible to reform and methodize the office of paymaster-general. I undertook it, however; and I succeeded in my undertaking. Whether the military service, or whether the general economy of our finances, have profited by that act, I leave to those who are acquainted with the army, and with the treasury, to judge.
Of all things, an indiscreet tampering with the trade of provisions is the most dangerous, and it is always worst in the time when men are most disposed to it: that is, in the time of scarcity. Because there is nothing on which the passions of men are so violent, and their judgment so weak, and on which there exists such a multitude of ill-founded popular prejudices.
The great use of government is as a restraint; and there is no restraint which it ought to put upon others, and upon itself too, rather than that which is imposed on the fury of speculating under circumstances of irritation. The number of idle tales, spread about by the industry of faction, and by the zeal of foolish good-intention, and greedily devoured by the malignant credulity of mankind, tends infinitely to aggravate prejudices, which, in themselves, are more than sufficiently strong. In that state of affairs, and of the public with relation to them, the first thing that government owes to us, the people, is INFORMATION; the next is timely coercion:—the one to guide our judgment; the other to regulate our tempers.
To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in anything else. It is not only so of the state and statesmen, but of all the classes and descriptions of the rich—they are the pensioners of the poor, and are maintained by their superfluity. They are under an absolute, hereditary, and indefeasible dependence on those who labour, and are miscalled the poor.
The labouring people are only poor, because they are numerous. Numbers in their nature imply poverty. In a fair distribution among a vast multitude none can have much. That class of dependent pensioners called the rich is so extremely small, that if all their throats were cut, and a distribution made of all they consume in a year, it would not give a bit of bread and cheese for one night's supper to those who labour, and who in reality feed both the pensioners and themselves.
But the throats of the rich ought not to be cut, nor their magazines plundered; because in their persons they are trustees for those who labour, and their hoards are the banking-houses of these latter. Whether they mean it or not, they do, in effect, execute their trust—some with more, some with less, fidelity and judgment. But, on the whole, the duty is performed, and everything returns, deducting some very trifling commission and discount, to the place from whence it arose. When the poor rise to destroy the rich, they act as wisely for their own purposes as when they burn mills, and throw corn into the river, to make bread cheap.
When I say, that we of the people ought to be informed, inclusively I say, we ought not to be flattered; flattery is the reverse of instruction. The POOR in that case would be rendered as improvident as the rich, which would not be at all good for them.
Nothing can be so base and so wicked as the political canting language, "The labouring POOR." Let compassion be shown in action, the more the better, according to every man's ability; but let there be no lamentation of their condition. It is no relief to their miserable circumstances; it is only an insult to their miserable understandings. It arises from a total want of charity, or a total want of thought. Want of one kind was never relieved by want of any other kind. Patience, labour, sobriety, frugality, and religion, should be recommended to them; all the rest is downright FRAUD. It is horrible to call them "The ONCE HAPPY labourer."
Whether what may be called the moral or philosophical happiness of the laborious classes is increased or not, I cannot say. The seat of that species of happiness is in the mind; and there are few data to ascertain the comparative state of the mind at any two periods. Philosophical happiness is to want little. Civil or vulgar happiness is to want much, and to enjoy much. IX.
If the happiness of the animal man (which certainly goes somewhere towards the happiness of the rational man) be the object of our estimate, then I assert without the least hesitation, that the condition of those who labour (in all descriptions of labour, and in all gradations of labour, from the highest to the lowest inclusively) is on the whole extremely meliorated, if more and better food is any standard of melioration. They work more, it is certain, but they have the advantage of their augmented labour; yet whether that increase of labour be on the whole a GOOD or an EVIL, is a consideration that would lead us a great way, and is not for my present purpose. But as to the fact of the melioration of their diet, I shall enter into the detail of proof whenever I am called upon: in the mean time, the known difficulty of contenting them with anything but bread made of the finest flour, and meat of the first quality, is proof sufficient.
I further assert, that even under all the hardships of the last year, the labouring people did, either out of their direct gains, or from charity (which it seems is now an insult to them), in fact, fare better than they did in seasons of common plenty, fifty or sixty years ago; or even at the period of my English observation, which is about forty-four years. I even assert, that full as many in that class as ever were known to do it before continued to save money; and this I can prove, so far as my own information and experience extend.
It is not true that the rate of wages has not increased with the nominal price of provisions. I allow it has not fluctuated with that price, nor ought it; and the squires of Norfolk had dined when they gave it as their opinion, that it might or ought to rise and fall with the market of provisions. The rate of wages in truth has no DIRECT relation to that price. Labour is a commodity like every other, and rises or falls according to the demand. This is in the nature of things; however, the nature of things has provided for their necessities. Wages have been twice raised in my time: and they bear a full proportion or even a greater than formerly, to the medium of provision during the last bad cycle of twenty years. They bear a full proportion to the result of their labour. If we were wildly to attempt to force them beyond it, the stone which we had forced up the hill would only fall back upon them in a diminished demand, or what indeed is the far lesser evil, an aggravated price, of all the provisions which are the result of their manual toil.
There is an implied contract, much stronger than any instrument or article of agreement between the labourer in any occupation and his employer—that the labour, so far as that labour is concerned, shall be sufficient to pay to the employer a profit on his capital, and a compensation for his risk; in a word, that the labour shall produce an advantage equal to the payment. Whatever is above that, is a direct TAX; and if the amount of that tax be left to the will and pleasure of another, it is an ARBITRARY TAX.
The true cause of his drawing so shocking a picture is no more than this, and it ought rather to claim our pity than excite our indignation;—he finds himself out of power; and this condition is intolerable to him. The same sun which gilds all nature, and exhilarates the whole creation, does not shine upon disappointed ambition. It is something that rays out of darkness, and inspires nothing but gloom and melancholy. Men in this deplorable state of mind find a comfort in spreading the contagion of their spleen. They find an advantage too; for it is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare. If such persons can answer the ends of relief and profit to themselves, they are apt to be careless enough about either the means or the consequences.
DIFFICULTY AN INSTRUCTOR.
Their purpose everywhere seems to have been to evade and slip aside from DIFFICULTY. This it has been the glory of the great masters in all the arts to confront, and to overcome; and when they had overcome the first difficulty, to turn it into an instrument for new conquests over new difficulties; thus to enable them to extend the empire of their science; and even to push forward, beyond the reach of their original thoughts, the landmarks of the human understanding itself. Difficulty is a severe instructor, set over us by the supreme ordinance of a parental Guardian and Legislator, who knows us better than we know ourselves, as he loves us better too. Pater ipse colendi haud facilem esse viam voluit. He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty obliges us to an intimate acquaintance with our object, and compels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be superficial. It is the want of nerves of understanding for such a task, it is the degenerate fondness for tricking short-cuts, and little fallacious facilities, that has in so many parts of the world created governments with arbitrary powers. They have created the late arbitrary monarchy of France; they have created the arbitrary republic of Paris. With them defects in wisdom are to be supplied by the plenitude of force. They get nothing by it. Commencing their labours on a principle of sloth, they have the common fortune of slothful men. The difficulties, which they rather had eluded than escaped, meet them again in their course; they multiply and thicken on them; they are involved, through a labyrinth of confused detail, in an industry without limit, and without direction; and, in conclusion, the whole of their work becomes feeble, vicious, and insecure.
It is this inability to wrestle with difficulty which has obliged the arbitrary Assembly of France to commence their schemes of reform with abolition and total destruction. But is it in destroying and pulling down that skill is displayed? Your mob can do this as well at least as your assemblies. The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand, is more than equal to that task. Rage and phrensy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice and the establishment together. The same lazy but restless disposition, which loves sloth and hates quiet, directs these politicians, when they come to work for supplying the place of what they have destroyed. To make everything the reverse of what they have seen, is quite as easy as to destroy. No difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide field of imagination, in which they may expatiate with little or no opposition.
With regard to the sovereign jurisdictions, I must observe, Sir, that whoever takes a view of this kingdom in a cursory manner will imagine, that he beholds a solid, compacted, uniform system of monarchy; in which all inferior jurisdictions are but as rays diverging from one centre. But on examining it more nearly, you find much eccentricity and confusion. It is not a monarchy in strictness. But, as in the Saxon times this country was an heptarchy, it is now a strange sort of PENTARCHY. It is divided into five several distinct principalities, besides the supreme. There is indeed this difference from the Saxon times, that as in the itinerant exhibitions of the stage, for want of a complete company, they are obliged to throw a variety of parts on their chief performer; so our sovereign condescends himself to act not only the principal, but all the subordinate, parts in the play. He condescends to dissipate the royal character, and to trifle with those light, subordinate, lacquered sceptres in those hands that sustain the ball representing the world, or which wield the trident that commands the ocean. Cross a brook, and you lose the king of England; but you have some comfort in coming again under his majesty, though "shorn of his beams," and no more than prince of Wales. Go to the north, and you find him dwindled to a duke of Lancaster; turn to the west of that north, and he pops upon you in the humble character of earl of Chester. Travel a few miles on, the earl of Chester disappears; and the king surprises you again as count palatine of Lancaster. If you travel beyond Mount Edgecombe, you find him once more in his incognito, and he is duke of Cornwall. So that, quite fatigued and satiated with this dull variety, you are infinitely refreshed when you return to the sphere of his proper splendour, and behold your amiable sovereign in his true, simple, undisguised, native character of majesty.
PRUDERY OF FALSE REFORM.
Every one must remember that the cabal set out with the most astonishing prudery, both moral and political. Those, who in a few months after soused over head and ears into the deepest and dirtiest pits of corruption, cried out violently against the indirect practices in the electing and managing of parliaments, which had formerly prevailed. This marvellous abhorrence which the court had suddenly taken to all influence, was not only circulated in conversation through the kingdom, but pompously announced to the public, with many other extraordinary things, in a pamphlet which had all the appearance of a manifesto preparatory to some considerable enterprise. Throughout it was a satire, though in terms managed and decent enough, on the politics of the former reign. It was indeed written with no small art and address.
In this piece appeared the first dawning of the new system; there first appeared the idea (then only in speculation) of SEPARATING THE COURT FROM THE ADMINISTRATION; of carrying everything from national connection to personal regards; and of forming a regular party for that purpose, under the name of KING'S MEN.
To recommend this system to the people, a perspective view of the court, gorgeously painted, and finely illuminated from within, was exhibited to the gaping multitude. Party was to be totally done away, with all its evil works. Corruption was to be cast down from court, as Ate was from heaven. Power was thenceforward to be the chosen residence of public spirit; and no one was to be supposed under any sinister influence, except those who had the misfortune to be in disgrace at court, which was to stand in lieu of all vices and all corruptions. A scheme of perfection to be realized in a monarchy far beyond the visionary republic of Plato. The whole scenery was exactly disposed to captivate those good souls, whose credulous morality is so invaluable a treasure to crafty politicians. Indeed there was wherewithal to charm everybody, except those few who are not much pleased with professions of supernatural virtue, who know of what stuff such professions are made, for what purposes they are designed, and in what they are sure constantly to end. Many innocent gentlemen, who had been talking prose all their lives without knowing anything of the matter, began at last to open their eyes upon their own merits, and to attribute their not having been lords of the treasury and lords of trade many years before, merely to the prevalence of party, and to the ministerial power, which had frustrated the good intentions of the court in favour of their abilities. Now was the time to unlock the sealed fountain of royal bounty, which had been infamously monopolized and huckstered, and to let it flow at large upon the whole people. The time was come to restore royalty to its original splendour.
If a few puny libellers, acting under a knot of factious politicians, without virtue, parts, or character (such they are constantly represented by these gentlemen), are sufficient to excite this disturbance, very perverse must be the disposition of that people amongst whom such a disturbance can be excited by such means. It is besides no small aggravation of the public misfortune, that the disease, on this hypothesis, appears to be without remedy. If the wealth of the nation be the cause of its turbulence, I imagine it is not proposed to introduce poverty, as a constable to keep the peace. If our dominions abroad are the roots which feed all this rank luxuriance of sedition, it is not intended to cut them off in order to famish the fruit. If our liberty has enfeebled the executive power, there is no design, I hope, to call in the aid of despotism, to fill up the deficiencies of law. Whatever may be intended, these things are not yet professed. We seem therefore to be driven to absolute despair: for we have no other materials to work upon but those out of which God has been pleased to form the inhabitants of this island. If these be radically and essentially vicious, all that can be said is, that those men are very unhappy, to whose fortune or duty it falls to administer the affairs of this untoward people. I hear it indeed sometimes asserted, that a steady perseverance in the present measures, and a rigorous punishment of those who oppose them, will in course of time infallibly put an end to these disorders. But this, in my opinion, is said without much observation of our present disposition, and without any knowledge at all of the general nature of mankind. If the matter of which this nation is composed be so very fermentable as these gentlemen describe it, leaven never will be wanting to work it up, as long as discontent, revenge, and ambition, have existence in the world. Particular punishments are the cure for accidental distempers in the state; they inflame rather than allay those heats which arise from the settled mismanagement of the government, or from a natural indisposition in the people. It is of the utmost moment not to make mistakes in the use of strong measures; and firmness is then only a virtue when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. In truth, inconstancy is a sort of natural corrective of folly and ignorance.
TACTICS OF CABAL.
It is a law of nature, that whoever is necessary to what we have made our object, is sure, in some way, or in some time or other, to become our master. All this, however, is submitted to, in order to avoid that monstrous evil of governing in concurrence with the opinion of the people. For it seems to be laid down as a maxim, that a king has some sort of interest in giving uneasiness to his subjects: that all who are pleasing to them, are to be of course disagreeable to him: that as soon as the persons who are odious at court are known to be odious to the people, it is snatched at as a lucky occasion of showering down upon them all kinds of emoluments and honours. None are considered as well?wishers to the crown, but those who advised to some unpopular course of action; none capable of serving it, but those who are obliged to call at every instant upon all its power for the safety of their lives. None are supposed to be fit priests in the temple of government, but the persons who are compelled to fly into it for sanctuary. Such is the effect of this refined project; such is ever the result of all the contrivances, which are used to free men from the servitude of their reason and from the necessity of ordering their affairs according to their evident interests. These contrivances oblige them to run into a real and ruinous servitude, in order to avoid a supposed restraint that might be attended with advantage.
GOVERNMENT, RELATIVE, NOT ABSOLUTE.
I never govern myself—no rational man ever did govern himself—by abstractions and universals. I do not put abstract ideas wholly out of any question, because I well know, that under that name I should dismiss principles; and that without the guide and light of sound, well-understood principles, all reasonings in politics, as in everything else, would be only a confused jumble of particular facts and details, without the means of drawing out any sort of theoretical or practical conclusion. A statesman differs from a professor in an university: the latter has only the general view of society; the former—the statesmen—has a number of circumstances to combine with those general ideas, and to take into his consideration. Circumstances are infinite, are infinitely combined; are variable and transient; he who does not take them into consideration is not erroneous, but stark mad—dat operam ut cum ratione insaniat—he is metaphysically mad. A statesman, never losing sight of principles, is to be guided by circumstances; and judging contrary to the exigencies of the moment he may ruin his country for ever.
I go on this ground, that government, representing the society, has a general superintending control over all the actions, and over all the publicly propagated doctrines of men, without which it never could provide adequately for all the wants of society; but then it is to use this power with an equitable discretion, the only bond of sovereign authority. For it is not, perhaps, so much by the assumption of unlawful powers, as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of those which are most legal, that governments oppose their true end and object; for there is such a thing as tyranny as well as usurpation. You can hardly state to me a case, to which legislature is the most confessedly competent, in which, if the rules of benignity and prudence are not observed, the most mischievous and oppressive things may not be done. So that after all, it is a moral and virtuous discretion, and not any abstract theory of right, which keeps governments faithful to their ends. Crude, unconnected truths are in the world of practice what falsehoods are in theory.
A reasonable, prudent, provident, and moderate coercion may be a means of preventing acts of extreme ferocity and rigour; for by propagating excessive and extravagant doctrines, such extravagant disorders take place, as require the most perilous and fierce corrections to oppose them. It is not morally true, that we are bound to establish in every country that form of religion which in OUR minds is most agreeable to truth, and conduces most to the eternal happiness of mankind. In the same manner it is not true that we are, against the conviction of our own judgment, to establish a system of opinions and practises directly contrary to those ends, only because some majority of the people, told by the head, may prefer it. No conscientious man would willingly establish what he knew to be false and mischievous in religion, or in anything else. No wise man, on the contrary, would tyrannically set up his own sense so as to reprobate that of the great prevailing body of the community, and pay no regard to the established opinions and prejudices of mankind or refuse to them the means of securing a religious instruction suitable to these prejudices. A great deal depends on the state in which you find men.
The foundations on which obedience to governments is founded, are not to be constantly discussed. That we are here, supposes the discussion already made and the dispute settled. We must assume the rights of what represents the public to control the individual, to make his will and his acts to submit to their will, until some intolerable grievance shall make us know that it does not answer its end, and will submit neither to reformation nor restraint. Otherwise we should dispute all the points of morality before we can punish a murderer, robber, and adulterer; we should analyze all society. Dangers by being despised grow great; so they do by absurd provision against them. Stulti est dixisse non putaram. Whether an early discovery of evil designs, an early declaration, and an early precaution against them, be more wise than to stifle all inquiry about them, for fear they should declare themselves more early than otherwise they would, and therefore precipitate the evil—all this depends on the reality of the danger. Is it only an unbookish jealousy, as Shakspeare calls it? It is a question of fact. Does a design against the constitution of this country exist? If it does, and if it is carried on with increasing vigour and activity by a restless faction, and if it receives countenance by the most ardent and enthusiastic applauses of its object, in the great council of this kingdom, by men of the first parts, which this kingdom produces, perhaps by the first it has ever produced, can I think that there is no danger? If there be danger, must there be no precaution at all against it? If you ask whether I think the danger urgent and immediate, I answer, thank God, I do not. The body of the people is yet sound, the constitution is in their hearts, while wicked men are endeavouring to put another into their heads. But if I see the very same beginnings, which have commonly ended in great calamities, I ought to act as if they might produce the very same effects. Early and provident fear is the mother of safety; because in that state of things the mind is firm and collected, and the judgment unembarrassed. But when the fear, and the evil feared, come on together, and press at once upon us, deliberation itself is ruinous, which saves upon all other occasions; because when perils are instant, it delays decision; the man is in a flutter, and in a hurry, and his judgment is gone, as the judgment of the deposed king of France and his ministers was gone, if the latter did not premeditately betray him. He was just come from his usual amusement of hunting, when the head of the column of treason and assassination was arrived at his house. Let not the king, let not the prince of Wales, be surprised in this manner. Let not both houses of parliament be led in triumph along with him, and have law dictated to them by the constitutional, the revolution, and the Unitarian societies. These insect reptiles, whilst they go on only caballing and toasting, only fill us with disgust; if they get above their natural size, and increase the quantity, whilst they keep the quality, of their venom, they become objects of the greatest terror. A spider in his natural size is only a spider, ugly and loathsome; and his flimsy net is only fit for catching flies. But, good God! suppose a spider as large as an ox, and that he spread cables about us, all the wilds of Africa would not produce anything so dreadful—
"Quale portentum neque militaris Daunia in latis alit esculetis, Nec Jubae tellus generat leonum Arida nutrix."
Think of them, who dare menace in the way they do in their present state, what would they do if they had power commensurate to their malice. God forbid I ever should have a despotic master; but if I must, my choice is made. I will have Louis XVI. rather than Monsieur Bailly, or Brissot, or Chabot; rather George III., or George IV., than Dr. Priestley or Dr. Kippis, persons who would not load a tyrannous power by the poisoned taunts of a vulgar, low-bred insolence. I hope we have still spirit enough to keep us from the one or the other. The contumelies of tyranny are the worst parts of it.
MAGNITUDE IN BUILDING.
To the sublime in building, greatness of dimension seems requisite; for on a few parts, and those small, the imagination cannot rise to any idea of infinity. No greatness in the manner can effectually compensate for the want of proper dimensions. There is no danger of drawing men into extravagant designs by this rule; it carries its own caution along with it. Because too great a length in buildings destroys the purpose of greatness, which it was intended to promote; the perspective will lessen it in height as it gains in length, and will bring it at last to a point; turning the whole figure into a sort of triangle, the poorest in its effect of almost any figure that can be presented to the eye. I have ever observed, that colonnades and avenues of trees of a moderate length were, without comparison, far grander than when they were suffered to run to immense distances. A true artist should put a generous deceit on the spectators, and effect the noblest designs by easy methods. Designs that are vast only by their dimensions, are always the sign of a common and low imagination. No work of art can be great, but as it deceives; to be otherwise is the prerogative of nature only. A good eye will fix the medium betwixt an excessive length or height (for the same objection lies against both), and a short or broken quantity: and perhaps it might be ascertained to a tolerable degree of exactness, if it was my purpose to descend far into the particulars of any art.
SOCIETY AND SOLITUDE.
The second branch of the social passions is that which administers to SOCIETY IN GENERAL. With regard to this, I observe, that society, merely as society, without any particular heightenings, gives us no positive pleasure in the enjoyment; but absolute and entire SOLITUDE, that is, the total and perpetual exclusion from all society, is as great a positive pain as can almost be conceived. Therefore in the balance between the pleasure of general SOCIETY, and the pain of absolute solitude, PAIN is the predominant idea. But the pleasure of any particular social enjoyment outweighs very considerably the uneasiness caused by the want of that particular enjoyment; so that the strongest sensations relative to the habitudes of PARTICULAR SOCIETY are sensations of pleasure. Good company, lively conversations, and the endearments of friendship, fill the mind with great pleasure; a temporary solitude, on the other hand, is itself agreeable. This may perhaps prove that we are creatures designed for contemplation as well as action; since solitude as well as society has its pleasures; as from the former observation we may discern, that an entire life of solitude contradicts the purposes of our being, since death itself is scarcely an idea of more terror.
EAST-INDIA BILL AND COMPANY.
I therefore freely admit to the East-India their claim to exclude their fellow-subjects from the commerce of half the globe. I admit their claim to administer an annual territorial revenue of seven millions sterling; to command an army of sixty thousand men; and to dispose (under the control of a sovereign, imperial discretion, and with the due observance of the natural and local law) of the lives and fortunes of thirty millions of their fellow-creatures. All this they possess by charter, and by acts of parliament (in my opinion), without a shadow of controversy.
Those who carry the rights and claims of the company the furthest do not contend for more than this; and all this I freely grant. But granting all this, they must grant to me, in my turn, that all political power which is set over men, and that all privilege claimed or exercised in exclusion of them, being wholly artificial, and for so much a derogation from the natural quality of mankind at large, ought to be some way or other exercised ultimately for their benefit.
If this is true with regard to every species of political dominion, and every description of commercial privilege, none of which can be original, self-derived rights, or grants for the mere private benefit of the holders, then such rights, or privileges, or whatever else you choose to call them, are all in the strictest sense a TRUST; and it is of the very essence of every trust to be rendered ACCOUNTABLE; and even totally to CEASE, when it substantially varies from the purposes for which alone it could have a lawful existence.
This I conceive, Sir, to be true of trusts of power vested in the highest hands, and of such as seem to hold of no human creature. But about the application of this principle to subordinate, DERIVATIVE trusts, I do not see how a controversy can be maintained. To whom then would I make the East-India Company accountable? Why, to parliament, to be sure; to parliament, from which their trust was derived; to parliament, which alone is capable of comprehending the magnitude of its object, and its abuse; and alone capable of an effectual legislative remedy. The very charter, which is held out to exclude parliament from correcting malversation with regard to the high trust vested in the company, is the very thing which at once gives a title and imposes on us a duty to interfere with effect, wherever power and authority originating from ourselves are perverted from their purposes, and become instruments of wrong and violence. If parliament, Sir, had nothing to do with this charter, we might have some sort of Epicurean excuse to stand aloof, indifferent spectators of what passes in the company's name in India and in London. But if we are the very cause of the evil, we are in a special manner engaged to the redress; and for us passively to bear with oppressions committed under the sanction of our own authority, is in truth and reason for this house to be an active accomplice in the abuse.
That the power, notoriously, grossly abused, has been bought from us is very certain. But this circumstance, which is urged against the bill, becomes an additional motive for our interference; lest we should be thought to have sold the blood of millions of men, for the base consideration of money. We sold, I admit, all that we had to sell; that is, our authority, not our control. We had not a right to make a market of our duties.
I ground myself therefore on this principle—that if the abuse is proved, the contract is broken, and we re-enter into all our rights; that is, into the exercise of all our duties. Our own authority is indeed as much a trust originally, as the company's authority is a trust derivatively; and it is the use we make of the resumed power that must justify or condemn us in the resumption of it. When we have perfected the plan laid before us by the right honourable mover, the world will then see what it is we destroy, and what it is we create. By that test we stand or fall; and by that test I trust that it will be found in the issue, that we are going to supersede a charter abused to the full extent of all the powers which it could abuse, and exercised in the plenitude of despotism, tyranny, and corruption; and that in one and the same plan, we provide a real chartered security for the RIGHTS OF MEN, cruelly violated under that charter.